Redefining my idea of success
My work commute each week has me on the road for a total of 435 miles. I live in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, but during the week, I get in my Subaru to head to my job with an environmental nonprofit outside of Washington, DC. The positive side to being in a car for an hour and a half in the morning is I have plenty of time to chug an inordinate amount of coffee. It’s a necessary addiction, because I leave my house around 4 a.m. to beat the traffic. That hour of the day cannot be greeted properly without a thermos full of a caffeinated beverage (or, if you’re coming at it from the other side, some Jameson).
This isn’t about my job, though. It’s about how I am leaving my job in less than four months. Did you know that in the span of 5 weeks, I drive the same amount of miles as the length of the Appalachian Trail?
Since high school, I’ve done my best to pursue every opportunity so I could find my niche and settle into a responsible existence. So I earned two undergraduate degrees. Then I went on to get my master’s. After a brief stint as a volunteer, I even landed a job with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, where I spent almost two-and-a-half years in the marketing and communications department. I left to pursue my current career as a communications manager (which, despite the long commute, I do enjoy).
Yet along the way, I’ve realized my ambition has become slightly destructive. My search for the next big thing often overshadows my ability to live in the present. So it’s time to make a change—even if it is against the grain of what society tells me I should strive for.
On Monday, May 1, I will leave Harpers Ferry, West Virginia with my father. Together, we will attempt a flip flop thru-hike.
To be honest, I’m scared of failure, but contemplating my “why” keeps propelling me forward. Hiking reminds me what it means to be alive. I am choosing to remember that life is a series of ups, downs, and in-betweens. Each moment should be appreciated in its own way. I want to feel the simple joy that comes from watching the sun set, and I’d even like to feel the pain that comes from constant 10-, 15-, or 20-mile days. This 2,189.8-mile Trail has defined much of my adult existence, and I can’t wait to share that passion with others. Seeing the exhilaration on people’s faces as they accomplish their dreams will mean so much.
I am hiking because I want to, not because I want to achieve something great. I am hiking because of reasons I am not even aware of yet, but I don’t need to figure them out now. The joy will be in discovering them, one by one.
After we leave Harpers Ferry, a mile into Maryland my father and I will cross under a bridge on U.S. 340. It’s a road I’m very familiar with, because I use it to get to work and back. The crossing is plainly marked with an “Appalachian Trail” sign, and it always makes me smile.
In four months, I’m sure my smile will be even brighter. How good will it feel to be walking that stretch of Trail instead of driving over it?
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